Fairbanks pollen counts set record

Posted: Sunday, May 26, 2002

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- The Interior has had some gorgeous spring weather this year, but Fairbanksans who suffer from allergies probably haven't been enjoying it.

Last week, the highest amount of birch pollen ever recorded floated through the city's airspace.

Downtown Fairbanks had 7,500 granules of tree pollen per cubic meter of air on Monday, more than double the former record of 3,000 set in the mid-1980s. Birch was by far the dominant pollen, accounting for 7,300 granules per cubic meter.

The astonishing burst of tiny yellow grain caused allergic reactions in people who didn't know they had allergies, said Dr. Timothy Foote of the Tanana Valley Clinic. Foote, a pediatrician, specializes in allergy treatment.

''The health impact has been significant,'' Foote said. ''We have our usual patients and we have people who never had a hint of an allergic symptom in their lives.''

Calls and visits pertaining to allergies have been four times the normal number, he said.

Birch pollen counts in Fairbanks are the highest in North America, said Foote, who himself suffers from a severe birch allergy.

James Anderson, science librarian at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, couldn't pin down the exact reasons for the latest burst.

Birch trees traditionally alternate between low and high years of pollen production, but this was abnormally high, he said. Records have been kept since 1978.

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